Long Term Storage (Food Part 2)

five basic needs: 1) FOOD, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy

Long Term Food Storage (LTS) is defined as food that can be stored 10 years or longer, some more than 30 years. Because of the long storage durations, things must be packaged correctly. To review, the biggest enemies of food storage are: light, heat, moisture, air, and rodents. LTS has to be packed in airtight, durable, sealed containers. This will require almost all store bought food to be repackaged, or you can buy prepackaged LTS items.

LTS is almost always packed in either #10 cans (coffee can size), or a combination of mylar bags and plastic buckets. Cans are the best; they are dark, sealed tight, very durable, impervious to rodents, easy to rotate/handle, and come in usable amounts that can be covered with a plastic lid once opened. But sealing cans requires special equipment that most of us don’t have at home.

The mylar/plastic bucket combination is the easiest for home packing. Mylar (a registered trademark of DuPont) is often used generically, it refers to a polyester film with high tensile strength and chemical stability, sometimes simply called a dry pack pouch. Mylar comes in a variety of pre-made sizes, most common are one and five gallon. The LTS item is placed in the mylar bag leaving room at the top, then put oxygen absorbers into the bag and seal using a hot iron (or a similar heat sealer). Another option is a vacuum sealer (this doesn’t require the oxygen absorbers). Exercise care when handling the mylar–it can be punctured–and store in a five gallon plastic bucket.

The advantage to packaging your own items is cost and flexibility. It’s much cheaper to buy mylar bags and buckets than it is to buy prepackaged items. Also you can package anything you want, including specialized or uncommon items.

But, the option of buying prepackaged LTS items also has definite advantages. When purchased this way, everything is done for you and done correctly, it’s nicely labeled and convenient – you order and pay for it, and it’s delivered to your porch ready to be stored away.

A hybrid LTS packaging option is to go to your local Mormon church cannery (they refer to them as Family Home Storage Centers). The Mormons have been involved in food storage since long before it was ‘cool’, and they have the system figured out. Best of all they are very nice, happy to share with non-Mormons alike, and essentially sell items at cost. You can buy the items in bulk (mostly 25 lbs bags) to take home and repackage yourself. But the best resource they offer is to allow you to volunteer to work on a canning crew where you all work together canning your own items (paying only the cost of the product and the cans). They have an extensive canning operation: starting with bulk size bags, you fill up the #10 cans, seal them with the metal lids, and place pre-printed labels on them. They provide boxes for each case of cans, also plastic lids. Obviously, it takes some coordination and time to get this done, but for the money involved and the finished product I believe this is the best way to do it. Here’s a YouTube video of the experience you can expect at the cannery.

Common LTS items are: black beans, pinto beans, nonfat dry milk, white rice, sugar, salt, wheat, dried apple slices, pasta, oats, dry onions, and potato flakes.

As always, look at your needs, resources (including space), and local availability to create the LTS strategy that works for you.

(Wednesday: But Water is Heavy!)